Traffic Calming and Community Empowerment, Year 2: Newark’s East Coast Greenway

High school students in the Newark Youth Leadership Project were asked if they knew someone who had been hit by a vehicle. This was their response.

High school students in the Newark Youth Leadership Project were asked if they knew someone who had been hit by a vehicle. This was their response.

“Who in this room personally knows someone who has been hit by a car?” Tri-State’s Zoe Baldwin asked a classroom of the 45 high school students interning as part of the Greater Newark Conservancy’s Newark Youth Leadership Project.

Over half raised their hands, in a memorable moment from a traffic calming curriculum held on Monday, July 13 and Friday, July 17. For the second year in a row, the curriculum combined classroom and field components to highlight the relationships between pedestrian safety, land use,  environmentalism, and urban revitalization, and how communities can organize around these important issues. MTR covered the curriculum’s first year in this article.

During Monday’s classroom exercise, students heard from several speakers, each approaching the topic of pedestrian safety from a different angle. TSTC Executive Director Kate Slevin contrasted the damage inflicted by auto-centric urban planning with progressive planning focused on all street users, and Associate Director Veronica Vanterpool spoke on the benefits of walkable streets and green communities. Newark City Planner Perris Straughter discussed how good planning and streetscape has made and can continue to make Newark a stronger community, and gave an overview of the logistics of city planning. Kim Wiley-Schwartz of Livable Streets Education and Zoe Baldwin of TSTC put pedestrian safety into a community empowerment context, giving a “Community Organizing 101” lesson and highlighting the positive changes that come from involved citizens.

Lastly, Dolores Newman, Co-Chair of the NJ Committee of the East Coast Greenway Alliance, gave background on the national movement and the trail itself, as well as the advocacy efforts needed to ensure its completion. The Greenway is a developing trail system that spans nearly 3,000 miles between Canada and Key West, Florida, linking the major cities of the eastern seaboard. Traveling northward, the New Jersey section begins in Trenton, winds its way up through New Brunswick, and ends in Newark, where travelers are directed to take the PATH train to Jersey City. The trail avoids trafficked roads when possible, but this wasn’t an option in the city, so walking conditions along the Greenway are in the same state as much of Newark’s pedestrian landscape – in need of repair.

Students broke into groups and walked the city, finding both good and bad pedestrian infrastructure. Click to see more pictures from the event.

Students broke into groups and walked the city, finding examples of both good and bad pedestrian infrastructure. Click to see more pictures from the event.

On Friday, students heard a short presentation from Greenway volunteer and RBA planner Mike Dannemiller, then broke into six groups to document conditions along portions of the route. Upon returning to the classroom, the groups presented their findings: potholed streets and cracked sidewalks, obscured signs and missing bike racks — and, in places, new crosswalks, speed humps, benches, and trees that the city has installed in recent years. These results, and the students’ proposed remedies, are currently being turned into a report that will be sent to Mayor Cory Booker, the Newark engineering department, media outlets, and the East Coast Greenway Alliance in an effort to improve walking conditions and publicize this East Coast treasure.

Photographs were taken by members of the Newark Youth Leadership Project. See more photos at Tri-State’s Facebook page.

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